A Pastor has been falsely accused by Indian officials and charged with allegedly offering local Muslims money to convert to Christianity.
Rev. Chander Manni Khanna of All Saints Church in Srinagar was arrested Nov. 17 in the dominantly Muslim region of Kashmir Valley, after a video showing the baptism of a group of local Muslim converts went viral on YouTube.
The video shows a group of seven being baptized in the All Saints Church by pastor Khanna, sparking public outrage – particularly that of Kashmir's Grand Mufti Bashir-ud-din Ahmad.
Ahmad alleged that pastor Khanna "was converting young Muslim men and women by offering money, and that therefore he must be arrested...The Mufti told media that the video was definitive evidence that Muslims were being “lured” to Christianity, although it only shows the baptism ceremony," according to Compass Direct News.
It is unclear exactly how officials built such charges against the pastor because sources say the converted group, who are also said to be in custody after being beaten and arrested by local police following the incident, have admitted they were never paid nor offered money to convert and that they did so by choice.
Compass Direct News quoted the pastor as saying, “I can’t convert anyone; it is the work of the Holy Spirit...And what do I teach in the church? God’s love and how to be good citizens and good human beings … I have never shown disrespect for the Quran.”
It is legal to practice religion freedom in India, and the public has the right to change religion. However, sources say that converting is still a very delicate issue because religious tensions are still brewing following the on-going disputes between Pakistan, China, and India.
Bishop Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy of the Church of North India denomination has come to the pastor's defense by acknowledging the charges being brought against him are false. Samantaroy has demanded that government officials do everything possible to protect the pastor's safety following a string of anti-Christian threats said to be from members of the local Muslim community.